The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), through its municipal youth development programmes, has been working with sport and recreation organizations in slum areas to empower young people and help inform them about the challenges facing them as well as offering alternative life skills geared towards conquering life in informal settlements.
UN-HABITAT and other UN agencies have frequently used sport to engage youth. While this has been a milestone in terms of youth engagement, it has been done in the absence of a deliberate and strategic effort to maximize the benefits sports endows in the process of giving youth a voice and say in urban development. It is therefore imperative that this engagement with sport be mainstreamed into existing work programmes with strategic intent. Importantly, sport is not only a source of entertainment for spectators, it is also a vital educational instrument, teaching fair play, teamwork and a sense of solidarity and promoting gender equity. Rather than constituting a purely personal activity, sports appeal to a collective identity and can provide role models for young people and children. UN-HABITAT has principally used sports in three ways:
- As stand-alone programmes for mobilisation, education and youth empowerment.
- As supplementary or supporting components to existing youth programmes and projects.
- As a supplementary component for supporting other UN-HABITAT Programmes.
Sports have a strategic place in the Habitat-Youth paradigm. It is one activity that directly links youth and urban planning and development. Sports and recreation, especially in urban areas are essentially dependent on the availability of playgrounds and urban open spaces in which sporting and recreational activities can take place. Planned urban settlements that account for proper utilization of open spaces for the purposes and use of the youth therefore offer greater possibilities for sports and recreation and by extension the recipe for engaging and dialoguing with youth around the themes of sports, recreation and urban development. Failure to provide young people with these spaces can lead to higher levels of idleness, delinquency, vagrancy, drugs and crime.
UN-HABITAT frequently receives requests from sporting events and facility providers for advice on how to incorporate their activities and facilities within a framework of engaging young people in human settlement issues. Through the organisation of world conferences and regional and sub-regional seminars, UN-HABITAT aims to help integrate the sporting community into the Habitat Agenda.
UN-HABITAT is also currently implementing a Medium Term Institutional and Strategic Plan (MTSIP) whose overall goal is to help create by 2013 “the necessary conditions for concerted international and national efforts to stabilize the growth of slums and set the stage for the subsequent reduction and reversal of the number of slum dwellers”. Its normative areas focus on the development of systems of participatory urban planning, management and governance to be delivered at the level of land, housing and infrastructure. The systems of participatory urban planning, management and governance involve three spheres of ecology, economy and equity. Urban Safety is the entry point for equity looking at the city as a whole.
1. Lake Victoria Youth-led Urban Planning Initiative:
This project aims at empowering young people from the cities of Kisumu (Kenya), Masaka (Uganda) and Bukoba (Tanzania) and is a partnership between UN HABITAT, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the respective Municipalities. It is envisaged that young people will be able to be trained on alternative construction and life skills. Sporting activities will be used as a platform to bring them together and at the same time provide opportunities to learn from one another about the challenges facing them and share experiences.
2. One Stop Youth Resource Centres:
Established and fully operational in Nairobi (Kenya), Kampala (Uganda) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), the One Stop Youth Resource and Information Centres are an initiative of UN-HABITAT and the respective municipal councils in various countries. Courses are offered to urban youth including information and communication technologies, electrical, metal work, masonry, carpentry, plumbing and block-making besides general construction. Sporting activities supplement these courses as they offer space for play and interaction.
3. Mekong Region Water and Sanitation Initiative:
This is another UN HABITAT project that has been supported by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It is planned to coincide with the opening of the South East Asian Games in Laos. The project involves educating school children about the importance of water conservation and other environmental aspects as they engage in play and games.
4. Safer Cities Programme:
UN-HABITAT’s Safer Cities Programme aims to contribute to the overarching goal of UN-HABITAT of “Sustainable Urbanization” through urban governance, appropriate urban management, and planning, in order to reduce and ultimately prevent the incidents and impacts of urban crime and violence in developing countries and those with economies in transition.
5. Sports for Enhancing Safe Neighbourhoods:
Together with the provincial government of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, UN-HABITAT hosted the International Youth Crime Prevention and Cities Summit in June 2008 in the city of Durban with the objective of preventing and reducing crime and violence in cities, towns and villages. On that occasion, sport was highlighted as a tool to fight criminality and drug abuse as it provides an alternative, healthy lifestyle to the youth while empowering them. The Summit realised the establishment of an International Youth-led Urban Development Platform which will engage with youth in disenfranchised neighbourhoods through positive development approaches - in particular, sports and arts. Baobab Connections, a Netherlands and South African based youth-led media organization will coordinate this platform via the website www.baobabconnections.org. The Kilimanjaro Initiative is partnering the Safer Cities Programme in spearheading and building partnerships towards the upgrading of sports facilities for safe neighbourhoods in partnership with local authorities and the private sector, as part of the preparations leading to the FIFA World Cup 2010. UNODC and UN-HABITAT are in the process of developing an outline for a tool on sports for safe neighbourhoods that will be developed together with the Platform and under the auspices of the UN Inter-Agency Working Group on Sports for Peace and Development. Meanwhile, South Africa is exploring the possibility of hosting an Expert Group Meeting during the World Cup 2010 focusing on urban safety and social cohesion impacts of global sporting events on host cities.
6. Kilimanjaro Climb:
This is an annual event organized by Kilimanjaro Initiative. It was initiated by the President of Kilimanjaro Initiative, Mr. Timothy Challen with the sole aim of sensitizing young people about crime and safety. Every year, young people from East Africa are joined by others from different parts of the world to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise funds which are used for the rehabilitation of playgrounds in informal urban settlements.
UN-HABITAT (2007), Strategy Paper on Urban Youth in Africa, Nairobi, Kenya.
Programmatic Focal Points:
Coordinator, Safer Cities Programme
Tel: +254 20 762 5538
Fax: +254 20 762 4263
Urban Safety & Youth Expert
Safer Cities Programme
Disaster Post-Conflict and Safety Section
Urban Development Branch
Tel: +254 20 762 37 71
Fax: +254 20 762 42 63
Communications Focal Point: